Police Fire Water Cannons to Quell Protest as Baton-Wielding Shop Owners Threaten Reporters in Istanbul

15 July 2013 Police have fired water cannons and tear gas to the several thousand protesters gathered on Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue to protest a midnight bill adopted this week by the Parliament which curbed the supervision of the Chamber of Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) in all urban projects, giving full authority to the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry. Some shop owners also threateningly attacked with batons reporters an protesters chased the protesters into the side streets by the police.

Members of TMMOB, of whom many were among the most active leaders of the Taksim Solidarity Platform that initiated the protests over the demolition of Gezi Park in Istanbul, as well as many protesters, had joined the demonstration in Galatasaray Square that started at 5:30 p.m.

However, police did not allow the group to walk to Taksim Square after the Governor’s Office refused to grant permission. Police demanded the protesters to end the demonstration after the statement, warning them that a dispersion by force would be carried out against them if they failed to do so. Most of the protesters dispersed while the police chased them into the side streets, cutting off some of the pedestrian entrances to the İstiklal Avenue.

Shop owners with batons attack protesters, reporters

After scattering, some of the protesters started to regroup on the İstiklal Avenue. Water cannon trucks and panzers were also dispatched to the area. Live footage showed riot police using tear gas in the side streets, while reports said that they also fired rubber bullets to protesters.

Meanwhile, a group of baton-wielding shop owners attacked protesters running from the police. They also threatened reporters, trying to prevent them in vain from filming and taking their pictures.

Police also detained protesters, including art scholar Osman Erden. Erden was seen bleeding from the mouth while he was taken into custody.

‘No to crazy projects’

Earlier, a spokesperson for the group slammed the midnight bill, saying the government wanted to “silence” architects and engineers to prevent hurdles in grandiose urban projects. “They don’t want us because we are against [Istanbul’s] third bridge, because we said no to Canal Istanbul,” he said, referring to the massive-scale construction works branded as “crazy projects” by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

During his speech, the crowd also chanted “no to the third bridge, no to canal Istanbul, no to crazy projects,” hinting that the demands of the protesters could widen.

The spokesperson also recalled that many members of the Taksim Solidarity Platform and other civil groups were harassed and ill-treated while in custody, including Mücella Yapıcı, the general secretary of TMMOB’s Istanbul office.

“We won’t surrender,” he said.

Protesters were also seen holding pictures of Ali İsmail Korkmez, the fifth Gezi protester to have died, who passed away this week after succumbing to his injuries, inflicted by assailants who beat him with sticks.

Earlier, mothers whose children had been detained organized a sit-in in GalatasaraySquare, calling for the end of arbitrary detentions.

Gezi Park was opened on July 8 after being in police lockdown for more than three weeks. The opening of the park had caused incidents as police intervened once again against protesters, taking into custody 50 people, including a number of NGO members.